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Are web problems damaging your message?


Bit of a longer blog this week but I hope you’ll bear with me as I’ve come across an interesting issue that more and more charities, small businesses, community groups etc. are going to need to think about in relation to their web presence.

It stems from the increasing popularity of multiple browsers now being used by many of us to access the web.  I should admit right now that I use a PC and a Blackberry but I’ve asked the views of colleagues with Android phones and Apple products and they experience the same issue (albeit in different ways).

Put simply, I’m baffled by how different the same thing can look on different browsers and the fact that some things don’t work at all in some browsers whilst everything is tickety-boo in others!

How important this is depends on how we are trying to deliver our core messages.  Consider these examples;

I was looking at the RSPCA’s website and had cause to try and find some information about their rescue teams.  The charity chooses to use videos to show footage of their teams in action and I think this is a great tool to support both campaigning and fundraising.

I watched the video in my preferred browser, Firefox but the delay in the film starting irritated me sufficiently to switch to Google Chrome, which is usually a faster browser.  The video did indeed start more quickly (well, it actually started!) and I watched the team in action, hanging over the edge of a very high cliff to rescue a ram.

Great stuff! I thought.  But then I thought about the people who might not have seen the video because they didn’t know to, or have the option to, switch to another browser.  Or, let’s be honest, didn’t bother because they feel they shouldn’t have to – which isn’t an unreasonable reaction.  Out of curiosity I tried to watch the video using Internet Explorer and the video frame didn’t load on the page at all.

Considerably more knowledgeable people then me will shout at this point that a) I’m not using an up to date version of X or Y and b) what do you expect if you’re going online in the evening when everyone is doing the same thing?  But I do update my machines when prompted and I use the web for leisure in the evenings – just like millions of other potential donors, supporters and customers.

Another example is of the small rural community charity Hidden Britain which is trying to grow its social media impact and engage in lots of interesting conversations.  Trouble is, they’re having to work out how to get their ‘share this’ buttons to appear consistently across the different browsers.

Difficult to share interesting content if the technology doesn’t easily support users.

I’m not sure there is anything that can be done about much of this strategically, but it does suggest a few key tactics to think about:

  • If you’re going to use videos to tell your stories, attract support or underpin your ‘ask’, they need to be simple enough to download quickly and robust enough to be visible on any major browser.  Otherwise they may actually be damaging
  • Clever buttons and widgets are grand if they must work properly – particularly if they are related to making donations, getting in contact, sharing messages socially or any other important actions
  • For some reason, the latest version of PDF readers embedded into websites don’t all work across the major browsers.  That means your press release, research findings or latest campaign posters might not be visible to a sizeable part of your audience! (take note Vodafone)

Rule of thumb: if your message and what it’s asking visitors to do is important, check that it is visible to everyone, even if this means foregoing some of the clever online toys.

And why is this more important for charities and smaller businesses in particular?  The issue exists for all organisations of course, but it’s these organisations that are less likely to have dedicated teams of web techs to help makes sure different browsers aren’t damaging their chances of delivering the best messages they possibly can.

Have you had a similar experience?  What did you do?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Adrian Salmon permalink
    26/10/2011 7:40 pm

    Hi Kev – it’s a lot better than it used to be – I remember the days when I used to have about 3 browsers on my Mac just to see certain sites. The thing that gets me is online video – a disproportionate number of sites seem to use Vimeo or similar Flash-based players, which instantly rules out their videos being viewed on iPhones or iPads. YouTube would work though!

    The old argument levelled against developing with Mac users in mind was that we were only a small proportion of the market, but we were also the highest value section of that market, which has become amply clear now! It’s much less obvious why people wouldn’t take iPhone or iPad users into account…

  2. 27/10/2011 9:20 am

    I agree on all counts Adrian. I too am old enough to remember the days when you couldn’t even open a Mac file created on a PC and vice versa!

    The companies concerned effectively have legalised oligopoly so they the least they should be ‘encouraged’ to do is to ensure that end users don’t struggle to get their core messages across to key audiences.

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